Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Talk of extending Metro north to either Fort Meade or Columbia or both was kicked around pretty intensely last April. In fact Delegate Liz Bobo in the type of forward thinking I wish more of our elected officials would show got the state legislature to have the state study extending Metro to Columbia’s downtown. (I think it was the same type of forward thinking shown by Ken Ulman by proposing comprehensive planning of the redevelopment of downtown Columbia rather than the piecemeal approach that was going on until then.)

Anyway back to extending Metro. The key is to do it right and I think after the last Focus Group meeting on downtown Columbia that if extending Metro is done right it could be the solution the developers need in order to develop the land in downtown Columbia. What does doing it right entail? Well the key to whether Metro or any mass transit will be successful is ridership density. People will only ride if it moves them between where they are at and where they want to get to. Thus the more stops at desirable departure points and destinations the more people are likely to use the system. As you get further out on a line ridership density will drop off if it is solely a commuter line, thus the case for a commuter line up to Columbia is often scoffed at. Similarly Howard County probably could not support its own stand alone mass transit rail system, however if you create a system that is both a commuter and internal transit system we increase ridership density on the system.

Let me submit a couple items for your consideration before I get to my proposal:

1) Howard County’s current population is over 266,734 people
2) DC’s current population is around 553,523 people
3) When planning a Metro system we should be thinking 30 to 40 years out.
4) Construction on the DC Metro was started in 1969. Thus it went from nothing to its current form in 36 years. (It is worth the reminder that during roughly this same time Columbia went from 14,000 acres of farmland to a city of about 100,000.)
5) Located between Baltimore and DC and next to Ft. Meade (which due to BRAC is likely to grow substantially) Howard County will face significant population growth pressures that we must manage. Personally I would not be surprised if Howard County’s population doubles in 40 years and this creates a huge challenge. How do we absorb this population in a way that 1) preserves the quality of life we have in Howard County, 2) stays true to the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so we have the infrastructure to meet the community’s needs

Through the creation of Columbia, Howard County has a tradition of being a cutting edge pioneer of community planning and as we address extending Metro I suggest we again think outside the box and propose a new way of looking at extending a mass transit system. Instead of thinking of Metro extensions as a commuter line we should recognize that we can increase ridership density – and thus Metro’s viability – by designing it for both local and commuter traffic. This will also help relieve the road network problems that will be created by the increases in the county’s population.

Let us not nickel and dime the design of Metro’s extension into costing us more. I know many people will look at this system and say that it is going to be very expensive to build this system with more than a handful of park and drive Metro stops. However, the more stops that will take people from where they are to where they want to go, then the more riders the system will have and the more likely it will be able to recoup costs. If we short change the system, then we risk costing the public more by creating a system that has less ridership and fails to draw enough people off the roads in order to significantly mitigate congestion and road construction costs. This more extensive system I am proposing can mitigate some of the need for additional roads or the widening of existing roads in all parts of our community, while a more limited Metro extension would only relieve congestion on highways, but still require people to drive to park and ride Metro stops.

Let’s look at the plan:

The idea is to extent the Yellow Line (which currently ends at Mt. Vernon Square) up to Greenbelt on the same route as the Green Line and then extend both the Yellow and Green Lines two stops north to the I-95/Route 212 Intersection in Calverton via a stop on Route 1 under the Department of Agriculture Library. From Calverton the Green Line and the Yellow Line would split with the Green Line going up the I-95 Corridor and the Yellow Line going up the Route 29 Corridor. Then both lines would weave together in Columbia. Stops would be at each of the village centers, major employment areas like the Applied Physics Lab and Gateway Office Park, and major community locations like Merriweather, the Mall, HCC, and Howard County Hospital. In Howard County a Circle Line will be used to complete the system so that a large segment of the population in the dense eastern part of the county can be within walk distance of a station and all major destinations get stops. In some of these stops the station can be designed to have two or more different exits to serve different needs. For example the Calverton stop could be designed to have exits at both the shopping center and movie theater there as well as a massive parking garage located where the current movie theater parking lot is.

Many of the Metro stops will have to be underground because stops increase property values, but rail lines decrease property values.

Finally, before we get to the maps remember that DC Metro didn’t exist 36 years ago and the plan being looked developed for downtown Columbia is for a 30 year plan.

Here is the zoomed out map of the plan:

Here is the zoomed in map of the Circle Line:

Here is a zoomed in map of the downtown Columbia portion:

Most of these stops are relatively self-explanatory, but a couple that aren’t are:

Reservoir Heights: This would be located at the driving range and put-put golf course on Route 29 just north of the Reservoir. This stop would likely be designed to be both a park and ride stop and to serve the residential development and entertainment activities in the area.

Running Brook/Vantage Point: This would be at the intersection of these roads and Little Patuxent Parkway with exits on either side of Little Patuxent Parkway and can be designed to allow a free pedestrian underpass under Little Patuxent Parkway that if designed right can be designed to create continuous eyes in the underpass to discourage any problems. This stop could also have an elevator exit next to Vantage House to ease its resident’s access to the Metro.

Medical Center: This is the name I am using for the former location at the Columbia Medical Plan building. This sight could also be designed to serve the neighboring residential area.

Howard County Government: This would be at the George Howard Building complex.

As a whole I think it will be very important to involve the local communities with the design of each stop.

Now there are several aspect of these plans that may need to be revised as we move forward. First and most obviously, a way to connect Ft. Meade and BWI to the plan needs to be developed. I am still looking at my maps to determine how best to do this, but with Baltimore Lightrail already going to BWI my current thought is to extend the Lightrail to Ft. Meade and then to Elkhorn (i.e. the Route 32/ Brokenland Parkway Park and Ride) and make Elkhorn the main transit hub connecting the Baltimore Lightrail and DC Metro. Second, the plans will have to adapt over time as the Metro is expanded out and the major population concentrations in the area evolve. Third, changes can be made to specific station locations through conversations with the community as each stage of the Metro extensions are designed. One example of a change I can think of is there might be a local interest in Ellicott City to extent the northern edge of the Yellow Line to Route 40 in the area of Normandy Shopping Center and maybe have Baltimore Lightrail (or the Proposed Baltimore Red Line that is under consideration in Baltimore) connecting with the Yellow Line at the Normandy station and with the Green Line at the Mt. Hebron Station.

What do you think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evan, I am always impressed with your thoughtfulness and clear thinking analysis.
I have no opinion about metro except conceptualy since I would never need to use it for moving around the area.
The one point I make about transportatiion is that if a commuter must walk several blocks to a stop, take one form of transportatiion (bus perhaps) to a metro or light rail stop, take the metro or whatever to a main stop, walk another block or two for another bus which will get them within a block of desired destination....why is that more desirable than driving in personal terms only, of course.
This was what I learned talking to folks who used public transportation to get to the same place I was getting to by driving. (I had carpools as often as I could, but became impractical with varying schedules)
I am not naysaying public transportation. Your idea of including much local stops is essential to its success, in my opinion.
Time, loads, weather, convenience....pretty hard obstacles to overcome....and how about the wealthier among us? Would they use it, or would it just be for poorer folks? And if so, does that encourage enclaves of one economic strand?
I don't know, just asking. Mary Pivar

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree mass transit is needed, but please don't pursue much less advantageous solutions first implemented in the 19th century such as "Metro" and light rail instead of far more advantageous 21st century solutions, namely personal rapid transit.

Metro may be slightly more forward thinking than cars (another gift from the 19th century), but wasn't even Jim Rouse back in the '60's thinking beyond Metro? Didn't his plans include a far more personal transit sytem than large Metro slugs?

Just considering ridership density, a solution based on Metro is nowhere close to the best solution. Even taking population growth into account, the layout you show would have fewer stations per square mile than D.C.'s has and fewer passengers per station. Both result in lower ridership (which in turn results in higher fare costs, resulting in even lower ridership).

If you want ridership, you have to make the system more convenient than cars and at least as economical.

The downsides of Metro:
VERY VERY expensive (It costs $350 million to $1 billion per mile. Don't forget, much of D.C.'s was paid for with gobs of federal money.)
Expensive stations, too, which constrains how many can be built, reducing convenience since travel distance to station increases
Takes a huge footprint for ground level stations and parking lots/garages (both of which also constrain where stations can be built), and ground level track
Ugly. Tracks, fencing, drab station architecture, drab garage architecture, asphalt parking lots, light pollution
Noisy - If ground level, who in Columbia or elsewhere will want to live near track lines with those wretched screeching wheels?
Slow - D.C.'s top speed is 59 mph.
Inconvenient - You have to wait for it. You're controlled by its schedule. Next train - 12 minutes.
Environmental impacts - Ground level track/fencing eats greenspace, impedes wildlife movement corridors isolating/reducing wildlife populations, causes track-kill.

The downsides of light rail:
Still expensive - $40-50 million per mile
Big footprints for ground level track and still required for stations since they are still dispersed enough to still require parking lots
Even slower - 22 mph BWI-Hunt Valley due to having to make multiple stops and not having right-of-way at intersections in Baltimore
Noisy - screech
Environmental impact - same as Metro

Instead, personal rapid transit (PRT) offers more convenience at less cost. Remember, we're striving for forward thinking transportation that is better than cars, that the community will welcome and use.

PRT's advantages:
Less expensive track - $1 million per mile
Less expensive stations - $5,000 each
Smaller footprint track - it's elevated so only telephone pole-like supports will be needed groundwise, the rest will be just elevated narrow magleve track
Smaller footprint stations - basically just stairs up to a very short platform (just 20 feet long maybe?)

Put just those four advantages together and it is very feasible and economical to have a PRT system providing much denser coverage of Columbia and Howard County. Instead of just one metro station per Columbia village, you could have PRT stops every quarter mile. That means much more convenience (and no parking lots/garages needed at stations).

Faster - 100 mph within the region, 150 mph between cities and direct travel to your personal destination without intermediate stops since the only passengers in your vehicle will be yourself and your party
No waiting for the train - no having to wait at the station since personal-sized vehicles will be queued at the station awaiting the next passenger
(Need a bigger vehicle? Request and schedule it online and it will be waiting for you at your station when you arrive.)
Quieter - it's maglev so it floats, not scrapes
Privacy - standard PRT vehicles will be two seaters that autonavigate to your chosen destination, so someone traveling alone would be traveling in their own PRT vehicle to their specific destination
Low environmental impact #1 - Elevated maglev track avoids consuming greenspace, avoids track-kill (with the unfortunate exception of birds I expect - hopefully a solution will be found for this, too), avoids the necessity of fencing off track that would obstruct wildlife movement corridors and isolate wildlife populations
Low environmental impact #2 - Electric powered, so less greenhouse gas emissions than cars
Less energy and money needed to travel by PRT than by car, metro, or light rail - PRT vehicles would be both more aerodynamic and lighter than cars (500 lbs vs. 2500 lbs)

Combining the increased coverage density with all these other advantages, I certainly believe PRT would enjoy far higher ridership than a metro/light rail system and at a much reduced cost.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a very brief essay that fairly concisely explains why Metro/light rail aren't great solutions and why PRT is a much better one.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops. Wrong link. The essay is here.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PRT is a Joke and a scam
40 years of PRT proposals and jive and the result is nothing.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joke, scam, jive? Hard to refute such technically-detailed PRT criticism as that.

Seriously, just because PRT hasn't been done yet in a design that takes advantage of current maglev, computer, aerodynamic, and materials science technology doesn't mean it isn't feasible in the very near future.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice idea with this site its better than most of the rubbish I come across.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks nice! Awesome content. Good job guys.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think at this point its worth revisiting, at least in concept, the original plan for Columbia's dedicated bus system. It was intended to connect all of the village centers, travelling in roughly a sideways figure 8 pattern, crossing over 29 and connecting east and west Columbia at the Town Center.

The bus system was intended to run on a seperate road network, sometimes elevated, and sometimes connecting with the internal pathways to provide an alternative mode of transportation within the New Town development.

It was abandoned early in the development of Columbia, and yet the idea seems to address many of the pressing issues Columbia currently and faces such as decline of the village centers, traffic congestion, pollution, and poor accessibility across the economic-income spectrum.

Also worth concidering is Baltimore's MTA vision plan for Metro/Lightrail which anticipates several new and extended lines to its current system.
Of interest is the "Yellow Line", a possible metro line to Columbia, and the "Red Line", which comes out to the Woodlawn/Security Blvd. area at the terminus of Rte. 70.

That link is here:

And its root page:

has information on the current status of that plan, with the Red line probably the nearest to implementation... 2008?

I'm not discounting the possibility of an extensive Columbia metro system for the distant future, but I don't think that it is currently realistic. An improved bus system address todays concerns while leaving room (right-of-way) for future improvements and is, I think, the best immediate option.

I also think we need to look more towards strengthening our relationship to Baltimore City and through the Rte. 40 and the Rt.1 corridors.
We need to put some of our planning and political efforts towards addressing transit services and option in these areas as they are major employement and residential zones for a wider range of the economic spectrum than Columbia alone.

Oh, and I followed some of those personal rapid tranist links and I have 2 very brief comments on that subject.

1) I'd like to see some real world examples before we start quoting prices and comparisons. Metro and Light Rail, as well as Bus' biggest advantage over this other system seems to be that they EXIST.
I don't mean to be harsh, and I fully support experiementation and new ideas, but you just can't compare specifics of a possibility with specifics of measured systems.

2)There are a lot of positive civic and social reasons to have people wait a few minutes, walk a few blocks, and ride with strangers on a public system - not least of which is the possiblity of meeting new people and spontaneous human interaction fostering civil society.

Thanks for reading. I'll try to find a link for the old Columbia Bus system. I think a company called Bendix was involoved. More on that later.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good comments, Michael.

As for fully implementing now the originally envisioned bus system -

Inexpensive to start - modest capital costs for buses and driver training
No additional greenspace would be consumed

Slow - subject to road system congestion
Requires waiting - Again, if it's a system that will get used and pay for itself, it has to be as convenient or more convenient than cars.
Buses most likely wouldn't run 24 hours a day due to cost of a driver and driving an empty large bus around. (Light rail and metro share this disadvantage, too, while PRT could be available 24/7 since it only requires one rider to cover the cost of its use and doesn't require a driver.)

I do think it's fair, for the purpose of a transportation plan that has to look forward 30 years, to compare the facets of PRT (some irrefutable such as no need for parking, less energy consumption, no waiting, smaller footprint, and less cost per mile since it's running lighterweight vehicles than light rail and metro) with existing light rail and metro lines.

As for your comments about the social benefits of having people wait a few minutes, walk a few blocks, ride with strangers -

Wait a few minutes? Why force people to give up a chunk of their time like that? Shouldn't people be allowed to decide for themselves when they'll socialize? Again, inconvenient = unused = car congestion continues. It can also be a safety issue to wait somewhere in public, especially at night, for transporation.

Walk a few blocks? The lower costs of PRT and bus systems would allow walking a few blocks. However, light rail and metro, due to ridership density and construciton costs/footprints, would have fewer and therefore more dispersed stations, requiring more than a few blocks for most folks in this area.

Ride with strangers? It's hard to justify the benefits of adhoc meetings on a multi-passenger vehicles vs. the additional energy and pollution costs of constantly propelling heavier, less aerodynamic many-passenger-capable vehicles. Also, why should anyone be forced to accept the risk of riding with people they don't know? PRT would allow individuals to travel alone or only with those they know. And because each PRT vehicle goes directly to the rider's chosen destination without any intermediate stops, there's no chance the goofball who followed you to the platform or arrived at the platform the same time as you could follow you when you get off (a very possible situation on buses, light rail, and metro).

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those that think PRT hasn't been done yet, maybe they should check their history books as well as recent news.

West Virginia started using one back in the '70's and it has been running continuously since then. Their system includes computer guidance, collision avoidance, electric propulsion, and automated empty vehicle redistribution in the system to meet rider demand. It's had ridership of 30,000+ people per day. WVU PRT vehicle photo. WVU PRT system manual. Granted their system isn't maglev and doesn't run 100 mph, but it has proven that computer controlled PRT works and is accepted by the public.

Now if only Columbia were as technically advanced as West Virginia...

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was unaware of the Morgantown system. From what I've just seen of it I think its a great idea, and actually the kind of thing that was envisioned for Columbia; A mini-bus system with its own right of way.

The big diffrence between the original idea and the HATS system (our current county provided bus service) and even the ColumBus (the system we had like 15 years ago) is the concept of a dedicated right-of-way and frequent stops.

Dedicated right of way need not be a raised platform, we can use bus lanes and the like in some areas where it is warranted, but if we were to scale the bussess down to smaller electric vehicles, perhaps with a little imagination and redesign they could even run on CA's existing bikepath system.

I agree that having more busses stuck in the same traffic is no solution, and if PRT is being defined loosely and generally, I support it.

I'm unconvinced by the PRT website posted above, with its computer generated fantastic images of skyrails and such. It seems like more showy images and sci-fi fantasy futurism than actual possibility...

but I'm always willing to learn, so if there are more examples of various PRT or any other options, please put them up for concideration!!! I will definately have to make it out to WV and check out that system.

And no fair making cracks at West Virginina. Its a beautiful state.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That wasn't really a crack at beautiful West Virginia. (Citing this as PRT would have been a crack at West Virginia. Then again, that would be more eco-friendly.)

To address your comment "I am unconvinced by the PRT website posted above, with its computer generated fantastic images of skyrails and such. It seems like more showy images and sci-fi fantasy futurism than actual possibility...", here's a non-computer generated image of such an aerodynamic, skyrail supported, maglev PRT system .

By the way, its construction begins later this year.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That wasn't really a crack at beautiful West Virginia. (Citing this as PRT would have been a crack at West Virginia. Then again, that would be more eco-friendly.)

To address your comment "I am unconvinced by the PRT website posted above, with its computer generated fantastic images of skyrails and such. It seems like more showy images and sci-fi fantasy futurism than actual possibility...", here's a non-computer generated image of such a PRT system .

By the way, its construction starts in 2009.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Richard Layman said...

Everybody who talks about PRT never discusses the throughput differences. PRT is basically private transit on a rail line. It makes no sense. None. Since it doesn't make sense as a transportation and mobility solution, it doesn't matter if it costs less to build--it costs less to build because it moves so few people.

A mile lane of road can move at best about 2,200 cars/hour. Light rail can move 16,000 or more people per hour in the same space, while heavy rail, which is what the WMATA system is, can move 30,000-60,000 people per hour.

Anyway, one other comment. It's not necessarily true that above-ground rail reduces property values. There's plenty of housing around the CSX rail lines-above ground red line in Washington DC and Maryland that is highly valued.

Typically, in strong market regions, housing and commercial space located by high capacity transit (below- and above-ground) is valued more highly than comparable property without such access. (I guess I need to check this out wrt the L in Chicago, which is elevated, and noisy.)

In weak market regions, it's hard to separate out all the other negative factors. E.g., in Cleveland, if I lived there, I'd want to live in areas with RTA service. And it appears that communities with such access, such as Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, and various Cleveland neighborhoods, have maintained their attraction and relative value vis-a-vis the otherwise shrinking region.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am all for this. I am all for putting it underground. But for real dude, with that kind of money you could get every Howard Countian a year's pass to that brothel off off Centennial Lane.

or, you could finance it by each Howard Countian taking %5 of their equity out of their million dollar mcmansions and donating it to HATS.

how about we do this: improve MARC. Build Baltimore's metro system that has been on the books since the 1960's. finally, after doing what needs to be done we can splurge on on shit like this. I figure the year will be 2300

6:28 PM  
Blogger REDACTED said...

Actually, the Metrorail figures above are wildly overinflated; Metro lines that are underground via tunnelling are $100m/quarter mile, cut-and-cover underground lines are cheaper, and of course above-ground are cheaper still. A mix of the latter two would be my suggestion for Howard County

I don't have much sympathy for the property value arguments; why should a community subsidise the property value of a minority? The county/WMATA have the right to build rail lines whereever they can acquire land or air-rights/rights-of-way. A house does not imply veto power over the neighboring land except as just another county voter.

However the picture is not so bleak; the metro lines can be obscured via retail/commercial development around/over the above ground line. The line is built, and a building built around it. The additional construction costs pale in comparison to tunnelling.

Unless one is planning to build in a very-high-density city (which Howard county, with its desultory population, has none of), a mix of tunnelling and cut-and-cover seems best; be marginally underground when following a road, be above ground but cloaked by buildings when crossing where roads aren't planned/don't exist.

I would say, being a DC-area resident, that while car/track compatibility w/ WMATA is a good idea, please don't assume that you can hijack the expansion of _two_ of the extant lines. As opposed to sending the yellow line out along the green, plans exist for seperating the two and sending yellow up 14/16th to Silver Spring, and then north from there.

Personally, in terms of WMATA offering intermediate regional transit, I hope they expand as follows.
Yellow - Silver Spring, Colesville, etc, Columbia, Ellicot City, Catonsville
Green - Laurel, Fort Meade, Severn, BWI, [Transfer station w/ Baltimore's Yellow Line], Linthicum
Orange - Glenn Dale, Bowie, Crofton, Parole, Cape Saint Claire, Severna Park, Pasadena, Glen Burnie, Ferndale, [Transfer Station w/ Baltimore's Blue Line], Linthicum
Blue - Upper Marlboro, Davidsonville, Riva, Parole, Annapolis, Highland Reach
South Branch Green Line - Clinton, Rosaryville, Croom, Eagle Harbor

Obviously each major community would have many stops, and independant deports and turn-arounds. The idea is just as WMATA sends some trains through a closer-in route through DC (Rockville - Silver Spring rather than Shady Grove - Glenmont) so too would there be Howard/Balt-counties-only Green Line trains, interspersed with express trains and full-line runs.

I just hope new construction considers double tracking both directions (or atleast a third track), so that we don't have these constant single-tracking bottlenecks every time there is a technical issue in one station.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my... another PRT advocate. Get out the raw garlic and the hammer and stake.

I already have a Personal Rapid Transit system of my very own. And it requires zero new infrastructure.

(It's a 2001 Toyota Celica.)

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Everybody who talks about PRT never discusses the throughput differences"

Unfortunately, you're mistaken. Some who talk about PRT do thoroughly discuss throughput differences, clearly demonstrating PRT's throughput advantages, primarily due to offline stations.

If you doubt me, here's a discussion of how even PRT using a kiddie train both exceeds light rail throughput and light rail speed.

Also, your presentation of throughput mentions throughput capacity, but doesn't mention that typically light rail and Metro ridership fall far lower than actual capacity (probably due to their slow speeds, intermediate stops, and remote stations). What good are transit systems that don't get used enough? Some transit experts believe continuing to build light rail systems actually harms public transit and builds little or no additional public transit ridership (so road congestion continues).

Yes, PRT is private transit on a public rail line. It is still publicly accessible to everyone, so what doesn't make sense about it? Does transit only make sense to you if people are required to ride in the same vehicle as strangers?

I agree that in the DC area, property values near Metro stations haven't been detrimentally affected, in many cases actually selling at a premium to comparable property further away. However, I haven't seen numbers for property more distant from the stations but in close proximity to the above ground rail lines. I can't imagine having a noisy rail line that splits communities wouldn't hurt home values in those locations.

Additionally, looking at how property values have been affected by rail lines and their stations ignores that in almost every case these lines and stations were placed in lesser income neighborhoods. Put an above ground Metro or light rail line through Chevy Chase or Potomac and you'll certainly see home values negatively affected.

Therein lies another part of the problem. If you want middle- and upper-class exurban dwellers to take public transit and to see ridership levels that actually do approach the systems' capacity, the transit lines have to reach those neighborhoods, too. Otherwise, ridership rates will remain low and road congestion will continue.

The public transit system has to offer equal or greater convenience than cars to achieve high ridership rates. But less than urban population densities can't support dense station distributions for light rail and Metro, so their ridership will remain low. Conversely, PRT's lower costs allow much denser station distributions. Combined with the faster transit rates, PRT would be able to provide the necessary equal-to-or-better-than car convenience to get high ridership.

"it doesn't matter if [PRT] costs less to build--it costs less to build because it moves so few people"

So few people? You didn't list how many people PRT moves when you listed hourly throughput rates for a lane of roadway (2200), light rail (16,000), and Metro (30,000-60,000). Since you didn't list a PRT throughput number, here's one: 40,000-80,000.

And which would you choose?
A. Walking less than a half mile to a PRT station, immediately boarding a waiting vehicle, traveling at high speed non-stop in private to your chosen stop, and walking less than a half mile to your final destination, averaging about 60-100 mph (not including the walks)?
B. Driving a mile or a couple miles, finding a parking spot at a light rail station, walking to the station, waiting for the next train (hopefully you're traveling during the trains service hours), boarding the train and waiting for everyone else to, too, reaching top speeds of maybe 60 mph but stopping at every intermediate stop, possibly exiting the train to wait for a connecting train, board that train, stop at more intermediate stops, exit again and then get to walk long distances to your final destination, averaging about 20 mph (not including the walks)?

Given those choices, which system would move so few people? Obviously the one that wastes peoples' time would be moving fewer people.

Anon 6:28,

If you're thinking about putting the entire Howard County transit system underground, think again - it's way too expensive. Subterranean mass transit costs up to $350 million to $1 billion per mile. And MARC only serves the Route 1 corridor unless you still want to drive to a MARC parking lot. Baltimore's Metro plans for suburban expansion are similarly linear, still costly for heavy rail line land acquisition and track construction (around $50 million per mile for light rail), and still provide a system that make you wait for a train that only runs part of the day and slow stop-at-every-station transit. A costly offering for an inconvenient and slow ride.


"the Metrorail figures above are wildly overinflated; Metro lines that are underground via tunnelling are $100m/quarter mile"

Then why was the cost of the 2.5 mile Metro tunnel under a section of Tysons Corner estimated to cost $2.5 billion? Hardly inflated numbers.
Saying above ground lines could be screened by commercial construction along the line basically would require using eminent domain to obliterate a very long and wide swath. PRT, supported from an elevated rail, would require no such land decimation and could be placed in existing rights-of-way above or along roads.

Frank IBC,

"Oh, my... another PRT advocate. Get out the raw garlic and the hammer and stake. I already have a Personal Rapid Transit system of my very own. And it requires zero new infrastructure. (It's a 2001 Toyota Celica.)"

I'm sorry you'd rather name call than provide substantive PRT criticism. Please come back when you've done some homework and contribute. As for your current mode of transport, you're hauling your 175 pound? self around in a 2,500 pound car. Why waste more than 90% of your vehicle's energy just moving your car's weight when you could be using lighter, 500 pound PRT vehicles, saving 80% of that energy, giving you the equivalent of a 200 mpg car? If you like spending many times more for your commuting energy costs, be my guest, but I expect we'll be taxing your emissions much more in the near future, too, to avoid this, if we can.

4:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree...I think I have an extra stake around here somewere, ugh

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to extend some sort of public transportation out to the less commercial but increasingly more residential areas of western Howard County?

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PRT, hmmmmmmmmmmmm.......The West Virginia University PRT system was dubiously cited above as a successful PRT venture. While I agree with the fact that the performance of the system has been stellar, (number of persons moved with limited technical glitches) key disadvantyages of the system remain. One key disadvantage is that the system is not a true PRT. Numerous engineering articles have covered this. The cars carry 20 people (a very similar situation to a small rail system and hardly personal). Additionally the cars only operated on a point to point basis during peak travel periods. Off peak times require a stop at every station.
Finally the costs of the construction of the system as well as the continued operation are extremely high.(the cars run on rubber tires and require a heated track which is expensive to construct and maintain).
We must remember that the system was built as a pet demonstration project during the Nixon era. If it had not been for the push of the Nixon cronies, the system would never have been completed. Additonally all plans for building similar systems across the country were shelved upon the completion of this project.
While I agree that the idea of a true PRT is wonderful, a truely functioning and cost effective system has yet to be built.

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Morgantown's system was built as a demonstration project, but its viability, even as quasi-PRT, has resulted in its continued operation right up to the present. While it was begun under the Nixon administration, it was completed under Ford's, and expanded under Carter's.

Anyway, you won't have long to wait to see a PRT system that meets your criteria for a "true PRT" system. The UAE, land of oil, is building a new city where solar-powered PRT will be the primary means of transportation, using 2,500 vehicles traveling between 83 stations.

Domestically, June '08's Popular Science included PRT among the transportation technologies that clean cities will need.

And, while the Morgantown system did take substantial public funding, so have many other transportation modes at their inception, including the railroads, subway systems, and much of our highway system. However, compared to other mass transit modes, Morgantown's PRT cost about $36M per mile (in 2004 dollars), which is a bargain compared to light rail's ~$50M per mile and a huge bargain compared to Metro's ~$350M-$1B per mile. Building PRT now, with available maglev, materials, and computer technology would be even more energy efficient, true PRT, and only a fraction of the cost per mile of even Morgantown's system.

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